By AMANDA C. DAVIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- The state is auditing the city's books for the first time in more than 15 years.
Warren, in the past, has contracted with an independent accounting firm for the annual audit, required by state law, but decided to have 2000 and 2001 finances examined by the Ohio Auditor's Office.
Councilman Alford Novak, D-2nd, introduced legislation last year for the audit to show residents the city is serious about accountability.
Taxpayers' concerns: He said several taxpayers expressed concern last year over finances and requested the city call in the state.
Voters at the time were preparing to vote on a proposed income tax increase that subsequently failed.
Novak said council wanted to send the message that lawmakers would do what they can to help solve the financial crisis. Employees were laid off and parks closed in 2000 as part of budget cuts.
Voters in May approved a 0.5 percent income tax increase to boost the police and fire departments.
Though laid-off workers have been recalled, Mayor Hank Angelo has said the city is not yet financially solvent.
State auditors will meet with council and administration officials at 2 p.m. Wednesday in council's caucus room. The meeting is closed to the public.
Review of books: Auditors began going over the books a few weeks ago. The results could come a year or more from now.
Nancy Ruggieri, the city's deputy auditor, used to work for the state auditor's office.
She said independent accounting firms are held to the same standards as the state and those audits are reviewed by state auditors before they're released. Many communities contract with private companies to do their audits.
Even so, Novak feels more comfortable with the state performing the audit. "I really think it's answering the call from the folks who said they want accountability," he said.
The state has also undertaken a performance audit of all city departments and has so far released results for the income tax, police, fire, operations and water departments.
The income tax department could be collecting as much as $2.2 million more each year in income tax, the audit found, and a finding for recovery has been issued against a former water department employee relating to missing money.
Novak said he's not pointing fingers or implying that the financial audit will turn up more wrongdoing.
Instead, he said, the financial audit will complement the performance audit and possibly provide for additional safeguards and recommendations for departments that handle money.